Gomukhasana at a Glance
“Gomukhasana” is a yoga asana (pose) that translates into a Cow Face Pose. It helps to stretch arms, triceps, shoulders, and chest. This asana is characterized by the crossing of the arms behind the back, resembling a cow’s face.
- Opens chest: It helps open the chest and front of the shoulders, thus good for people who spend a long time sitting at a desk.
- Aids good Digestion: The pose can help stimulate the kidneys and other abdominal organs, supporting their function and digestion.
- Strengthens the Muscles: Almost all the muscles of the back. Hips, ankles. This pose stretches the shoulders, thighs, inner armpits, triceps, and chest.
Who can Do?
- Beginners to advanced practitioners who want to work on their shoulder flexibility or overall flexibility including hips can practice this pose.
Who Cannot do it?
- People with shoulder or hip injuries should avoid this pose. Modifications can be made to accommodate limitations.
- If a person has pain when crossing the legs, in such cases, consider using props or opting for a more suitable pose.
- Individuals with limited shoulder, hip, or arm mobility might find this pose challenging
- Due to a demand for balance in this pose, pregnant ladies should avoid this pose.
The term Gomukhasana is the combination of three Sanskrit words: Go, Mukha, and Asana. Go means cow. Mukha means mouth. But in Tamil, Mukha means Face. Asana means Pose. Hence it means Cow Face Pose. The pose looks like a cow’s face, so it is named Gomukhasana. The Pose combines stretching and flexibility and is a seated pose that primarily focuses on the shoulders, arms, and hips. Gomukhasana requires a certain degree of mobility and flexibility to perform comfortably.
Gomukhasana opens the chest and heart completely, thus opening the heart anahata Akash. It also opens the lungs. It is believed to be a good posture for removing avalam bhaka kapha congestion or gaining a good immune system by building strength in these sensitive kapha-prone areas.
Heart Chakra (Anahata): Gomukhasana involves a chest opening that can stimulate the heart chakra, promoting compassion, love, and emotional healing.
Throat Chakra (Vishuddha): The stretching and opening of shoulders in the asana facilitates the throat chakra’s expression and communication.
Third Eye Chakra (Ajna): it is not linked directly, but since there is a mindful focus and concentration, it helps to stimulate this chakra.
Root Chakra (Muladhara): The seated position in this pose exhibits grounding and stability and hence stimulates this chakra.
How to Do Gomukhasana?
Follow the Step-by-Step Instructions
- Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Slide your left foot under your right leg beside your right hip. Then, cross your right leg over your left, stacking your right knee on top of your left knee.
- Extend your right arm out to the side at shoulder height. Bend your right elbow and bring the same hand behind your head, reaching towards the upper back.
- Extend your left arm to the side, palm facing down. Bend your left elbow and turn your left hand behind your back, trying to reach for your right hand.
- Try to align your elbows with your hands closer together. Keep your spine straight and your chest lifted.
- Breathe deeply, hold the pose until you are comfortable, and feel the stretch in your shoulders, chest, and hips.
- Gently release the pose and do it from the other side. Switch the legs too.
What are the Benefits of Gomukhasana?
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Deep breathing throughout the pose helps reduce stress, and the pose’s overall posture helps reduce anxiety.
Strengthens the Muscles
Almost all the muscles of the back. Hips, ankles. This pose stretches the shoulders, thighs, inner armpits, triceps, and chest.
Elongates Spine and Improves Bad Posture
The pose helps lengthen the spine, thus helping maintain a good posture.
Cures diseases: The pose helps to fight diseases like sciatica, high blood pressure and diabetes
Stretches Shoulder and Hips
This pose stretches the shoulders and hips deeply, thus helping to improve their flexibility and range of motion.
Gomukhasana helps open the chest and front of the shoulders, thus good for people who spend a long time sitting at a desk.
Aids Good Digestion
The pose can help stimulate the kidneys and other abdominal organs, supporting their function and digestion.
Health Conditions that Might Benefit from Gomukhasana
Practicing this asana regularly helps to decrease glucose levels and increase insulin levels. Stimulation of the kidneys also helps to maintain diabetes.
Gomukhasana can alleviate or prevent sciatica pain due to nerves by lengthening and stretching the spine.
Improves Sexual Performance
This pose helps in improving the circulation of sex organs, which aids in producing sex hormones.
The pose improves blood circulation and reduces strain on the blood vessels, thereby preventing the formation of bad fat cholesterol in our bodies. This prevents heart attacks and heart strokes.
Treats High Blood Pressure
The pose activates almost all the muscles and helps in good blood circulation throughout the body, so it helps in maintaining normal blood pressure.
Physical Alignment Principles of Gomukhasana
In this pose, progress very slowly. It should not strain your joints. With deep breathing, open your chest and keep your back straight. Use yoga straps if needed. Keep your knees relaxed and progress towards the pose, bending them to see your comfort level. With practice, you will get more flexibility in this pose. Keep your shoulders relaxed and naval pulled in.
Safety and Precautions
People with shoulder injuries should practice with modification or avoid the pose.
People with knee injuries should keep a folded blanket for knee support or avoid the pose.
Individuals with wrist problems or carpal tunnel syndrome might experience discomfort when attempting to bind the hands behind the back, trying to catch the left hand with a right hand and vice versa.
Modification should be done under such conditions.
For people with surgeries on shoulders, hips, knees, or wrists, it’s advisable to consult a doctor.
Due to balance issues, the pose is uncomfortable during this period.
High Blood Pressure
The forward bending in this pose might be uncomfortable with people having this issue.
Severe Lower Back Issues
This asana may worsen the condition if there is a severe back problem.
Ankle or Foot Issues
Always modify the pose under such conditions.
Discomfort or Pain
If there is any discomfort while doing this pose, please listen to your body and avoid it or modify it as needed.
Do not rush into the pose too quickly. Engage your entire body, but keep it relaxed and calm. Maintain deep breaths throughout the pose. Keep your back straight. Involve your core. Do not strain your knees or thighs while bending your legs. Stretch your hands firmly until you are comfortable in the asana, and look straight ahead.
Gomukhasana and Variations
- Arms Behind the Back Variation: Start with a seated position with legs extended, bend the right knee, and place the right foot close to the left hip. Cross the left over the right foot keeping the feet over each other. Lift your right arm, fold the elbow, and bend the elbow, bringing the same hand to the upper back. Reach your left arm behind your back and bend the elbow to hold both hands together. Props can be used to make the pose effective. Keep the spine straight and repeat on the other side.
- Gomukhasana with Forward Fold: Begin with a seated position, and cross the right leg over the left leg. Lift your right arm over your head and bend the elbow, bringing your right hand to the upper back. Bend the left elbow and bring it behind your back, reaching up. If comfortable, adjust the hips and fold it forward over your legs. Keep the spine straight and extended. Breathe deeply.
- Standing Gomukhasana Arms: Stand in mountain pose. Lift your right arm straight up, bend your right elbow, and let your right hand fall towards your upper back. Extend your left arm and bend the elbow, reaching your left hand up your back. Try to hold your fingers, and props can be used as comfortable. Switch the arms and repeat.
- There are many other variations possible for this asana as Half Gomukhasana Arms, Full Gomukhasana Legs Only, Gomukhasana forward fold, Seated cow face Gomukhasana, Gomukhasana Supine Leg Stretch and Supine Gomukhasana Arm Stretch.
- Warm Up: Before attempting Gomukhasana, warm up your shoulders, hips, and spine with gentle stretches and movements. This helps to prepare the body and helps reduce the risk of injuries.
- Symmetry: Try to align your arms and legs in a straight position and maintain balance and comfort in the pose.
- Start with the Legs: First, work on holding the knees one above the other and watch your body till it is comfortable.
- Breathe: Deepen the stretch with proper breathing gradually.
- Avoid Strain: There is always a modification whenever your body demands it, so avoid strain.
- Elbow Alignment: Elbows should be backward and outward.
- Arm Flexibility: Use a strap if the arms are not flexible.
- Shoulder Awareness: Avoid hunching of shoulders, and they should be away from ears.
- Hips: Be comfortable and use props whenever required. Release the pose very slowly.
Gomukhasana and Breath
In Gomukhasana, inhale and cross both the legs in the pose as comfortable, and use props if needed. Exhale and lengthen the spine. Inhale again, get the arms at the back, and exhale, holding on to the palms of both hands; with every exhalation, try to stretch deeper into the pose and loosen the body with each inhalation.
- Shoulder Rolls
- Neck Stretches
- Eagle Arms
- Thread the Needle
- Puppy Pose
- Wide-Legged Forward Fold
- Pigeon Pose
- Bridge Pose
- Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
- Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Seated Spinal Twist
- Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Practice regularly and use props. Practice shoulder stretches like Eagle Arms, Thread the Needle, and Puppy Pose.
- These stretches open the shoulders gradually. Introduce hip-opening poses like Pigeon Pose and Wide-Legged Forward Fold to improve hip flexibility, which is essential for leg positioning. Deep, conscious breathing can help relax muscles and help to deepen the pose.
- It gives us accessibility to other poses that include deep shoulder openings or binds and deep hip openers like eka pada rajakapotasana (one-legged king pigeon pose) can be attained.
- Don’t force your knees onto each other while stacking on each other. Your sit bones should be well grounded.
- Tension should be avoided anywhere in the body and modified as needed, and be patient.
What is the physiology of Gomukhasana?
Gomukhasana opens the chest, heart, and lungs and is an excellent pose for removing Kapha and congestion and healing frozen shoulders.
What are the unique aspects of Gomukhasana?
The body resembles a cow’s face in the final pose.
What muscles are used in Gomukhasana?
It stretches various muscles, including arms, shoulders, upper back, glutes, hamstrings, hips, and knees.
What are the modifications of Gomukhasana?
You can always modify the pose with the help of a block or folded blanket below the hips to neutralize the alignment of the lower back. You can also use a strap to clasp both hands.
Gomukhasana, or Cow Face Pose, is a yoga asana that offers many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. Its Sanskrit name, derived from the resemblance of crossed arms to a cow’s face, encapsulates the symbolism of harmony and balance that this pose can bring to our holistic well-being. Practicing Gomukhasana gives us a reminder that our bodies are vessels of potential and self-discovery. The journey is as interesting as the destination, and the wisdom gained from this exploration extends beyond the mat into our daily lives. For each of us, Gomukhasana introduces the essence of growth, balance, and the art of being present in the moment.
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